Former UAW President Dennis Williams was charged with conspiracy to embezzle union funds today, which we knew was coming yesterday. Which means the biggest question remaining isn’t whether the feds would ensnare the two most recent former union presidents but if they will take over the union itself.
Former UAW President Gary Jones pleaded guilty in June while prosecutors filed a criminal information against Williams today, a document which typically indicates that a guilty plea is expected as well. You can read the whole document at the bottom of this post but the meat of it is as follows:
In furtherance of the conspiracy, and to effect the objects thereof, the defendant and his co-conspirators committed and caused to be committed the following overt acts, among others, in the Eastern District of Michigan, and elsewhere:
16. In or about December 2015, Gary Jones ordered cigars from the Gary’s Sales company located in Parker, Arizona. Gary Jones ordered these cigars for his own use and for the use of DENNIS WILLIAMS and others. In 2016, DENNIS WILLIAMS accepted a portion of these cigars.
17. From December 17, 2015 through March 31, 2016, DENNIS WILLIAMS accepted a villa in Palm Springs, California, paid for with $17,195 in UAW funds. Ostensibly, the villa was for the use of DENNIS WILLIAMS during a week-long, January 2016 UAW Region 5 conference and other UAW-related meetings.
18. In January 2016, Gary Jones gave $6,000 in gift certificates for rounds of golf at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort, in Palm Springs, California, paid for with UAW funds, to an associate of DENNIS WILLIAMS for their use outside of the dates of any UAW-related conferences. DENNIS WILLIAMS and the associate used a portion of those certificates.
19. From December 1, 2016 through April 1, 2017, DENNIS WILLIAMS accepted a villa in Palm Springs, California, paid for with $22,195 in UAW funds. Ostensibly, the villa was for the use of DENNIS WILLIAMS during a week-long, January 2017 UAW Region 5 conference and other UAW-related meetings.
20. From December 28, 2016 through March 1, 2017, DENNIS WILLIAMS accepted a villa in Palm Springs, California, for his friends, paid for with $12,195 in UAW funds. The villa was for the use of the friends of DENNIS WILLIAMS who had no role in any UAW Region 5 conference or other UAW-related meetings.
21. From December 20, 2017 through March 1, 2018, DENNIS WILLIAMS accepted a villa in Palm Springs, California, paid for with $13,945 in UAW funds. Ostensibly, the villa was for the use of DENNIS WILLIAMS during a week-long, January 2018 UAW Region 5 conference and other UAW-related meetings.
Williams faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if convicted but his plotline in this scandal—he’s the 15th person to be charged with a crime in the investigation, and the only one of those not to plead guilty so far—has felt preordained for some time now, a matter of when and not if.
The more interesting plotline is whether, having bagged two of its top targets in Williams and Jones, the feds would continue on a different path—that of taking over the union. Prosecutors and UAW officials including current president Rory Gamble have been in discussions about that recently but it increasingly sounds like the UAW has no choice but to submit.
What submission looks like doesn’t have to be a federal takeover, a la the Teamsters, as it could also mean less onerous agreements between the union and the government but regardless it sure sounds like something’s in the works.
Reuters caught up with eastern Michigan’s lead federal prosecutor today in the wake of the Williams’ charges to ask about it.
Federal and union officials are “actively talking” and “making great progress,” Matthew Schneider, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, told Reuters in an interview.
“All options are still on the table and they will be until we can resolve this,” he said.
Schneider said he would like to see the union reform talks wrap up as soon as possible but the investigation of corruption within the union continues, with 15 people being charged so far.
“All options are still on the table and they will be until we can resolve this” is something you say when you know you are in the driver’s seat, which the federal government very much is in this case. The best the UAW can hope for is to submit and cooperate hope that’s enough.